Category Archives : UC News

All about news in the UC world

P&G IT/IS – Real Time Communication and Data

I’ve not worked or been involved with anything at P&G but from what I have read and heard from a few second hand sources I am very impressed with the CIO Fillipo Passerini and his emphasis on how communication and data are changing how organisations do business.

I’ve included some quotes below from an Information Week article and a roundtable discussion from the Wall Street Journal article:

Lets start with the premise that the IT landscape has fundemtnally changed over the past 5 years and you need different skill sets within your department (WSJ)

The focus on business has become extremely important. An IT professional can transform the way business is done. This is very, very different from the profile of the people we would hire five or more years ago.

The IT department is no longer the king of technology.  Consumerisation has created a push business model where business people are constantly knocking on a CIO’s door.  IT has to embrace this change, if you don’t the business will find someone who will.

From a Unified Communications persepctive it is interesting that a CIO with such a vision highlights video conferencing as a key aspect of an IT provision (IW);

Another example is the ability for people to video-connect anytime, anywhere, any place, because we are a truly global operation. We may have teams working on a new business initiative in China, a commercial plan is developed in Europe, and commercialization [happens] in the U.S. For these people to come together instantaneously without having to fly or without having to plan—this is what is going to enable us.

I think you could take the above paragraph from 95% of the Fortune 500 and it would be an accurate statement of how they are wanting to operate.  They are literally turning their organisational model inside out. Yet if I was to survey those Fortune 500 I’m willing to bet that a significant number of them will complain about their video conference estate.  Even with significant investment most large organisations believe their VC estate is too cumbersome to operate, not fit for purpose and doesn’t have the required network to support.  You then often find the IT department state that video is just a gimmick that no uses anyway.  Well here is a CIO that is as close to the business as he can be and he’s committed to delivering high quality video to as much as the work force as possible.

Moving away from communication and onto data.  P&G want to invest in real time data.  I’m fully committed to this aim as well.  Consumers are living in real time.  They comunicate with their friends and families in seconds yet they typically communicate with the businesses they buy from in days and weeks (and on a separate point they communicate with their governments in months and years but that is a different story).  This will not be acceptable in the communication age.  For a business to respond in real time their data has to be accurate and available in real time (IW);

In terms of data, this strategy needs the right real-time data. What’s real time? The goal P&G’s working toward is that as soon as data is collected, it’s available for use, Passerini says. P&G isn’t after new data types; it still wants to share and analyze point-of-sale, inventory, ad spending, and shipment data. What’s new is the higher frequency and speed at which P&G gets that data, and the finer granularity. Passerini says P&G has about two-thirds of the real-time data it needs.

If P&G really do have 2/3 of data in real time they are probably producing significant competitive advantage within the market place.  My experience with large organisations is that they often don’t even know where their data is or what they are generating let alone have it available in real time (WSJ);

The other example is the ability to predict, do modeling and “what if” analysis. We’re creating some automation to [analyze] what is happening, why it is happening, so that we can focus all of our energies on how to improve what we have to improve. This will give us an ability to predict or to stay in control of sales volume, market shares, much, much better and be more specific, surgical, in the interventions we make.

In my view P&G have the exact blueprint for an IT department:

  • Find business people who can talk IT and employ them rather than IT personnel.  There may not be that many available on the market but its ok you don’t need too many to run a large IT department
  • Concentrate  and focus investment on real time data and communication
  • Don’t fight consumerisation – ride it and use it
  • Continue to cut costs in the department and invest those savings

In the articles Passerini didn’t mention the normal fodder for CIOs, such as; data centres, service levels, security but I guarantee they are the issues that under performing IT departments land on their CIO every day.  I know where I’d rather be focusing my time on.

Harvard Students Top 5 Medical Apps

Quite an interesting list, here are the top 5 downloaded apps by med school students at Harvard, care of Mobihealthnews:

Dynamed – Students and physicians can use this clinical reference tool created by physicians for point-of-care situations

Unbound Medicine uCentral – This apps serves as a portal bringing popular medical publications to students’ iPad with the tap of the screen. The app includes 5 Minute Clinical Consult, A to Z Drug Facts, Drug Interaction Facts, and others.

VisualDx Mobile – VisualDx provides physician-reviewed clinical information with thousands of medical images showing the variation of disease presentation through age, stage, and skin type.

Epocrates Essentials – The app is an all-in-one mobile guide to drugs and disease with an integrated disease database with conditions, plus over-the-counter medications and hundreds of diagnostic and laboratory tests.

iRadiology – A learning tool for medical students and residents, iRadiology provides quick reviews of classic radiology cases and images.


Ocado and Tesco Technology Competition

Nick Lansley of Tesco’s is a particular favourite blog of mine and reading his latest blog post on Ocado scraping the Tesco website proves a fascinating insight into how technology is fueling the competition within the  supermaket sector.

At the Retail Week conference, Ocado CFO Andrew Bracey admitted that they scrape the Tesco grocery site in order to get Tesco prices with which they price match with 8,000 of their own products.

Sitting in the audience, I was intrigued by Ocado’s admission that they scrape our site (that is, run scripts from client machines that mechanically operate our web site pretending to be a human customer. Such scripts will loop through every department, aisle and shelf, and then harvest the text of all the products that appear on the page).

Only recently I would assume supermarkets would have to rely on specialist agencies to track their competitors pricing with people visiting the shops and recording the costs (I’m certain this still takes place).  In such a manual process price data could take several days of lag before moving through to the finance and pricing teams.  With server based scripting however data gathering time differential could be reduced to hours and minutes.

As Nick points out the Tesco pricing being scraped by Ocado is not quite real time but I would assume the data is accurate enough to produce exception reports to the Ocado buying, pricing and store management teams that could quickly adjust the pricing.  Indeed the process could be taken one stage further and potentially automatically update pricing to reflect competitor pricing.

This example typifies how crucial technology is to a company’s competitive advantage.  The ability for a company to generate and capture large data in real time dramatically effects the potential to gain sales and market share.  To highlight a negative example on how IT can effect the bottom line the recent sad end to Auto Windscreens was reportedly due to a mis-performing IT system that was delayed and then did not function correctly when released.

The message for me for crucial to any board of directors. Where ever your CIO sits make sure he or she is fully embedded within the strategy and operations of your core business.  They can literally make or brake your business.

As a quick aside I wonder if the next generation of cloud computing will see providers such as Google and Microsoft storing company data with offers such as Office 365 and Google Apps and then providing the stored data back to the company in real time with business intelligence applied?

Kinect and 3D Capture

Mirageblocks is a very interesting concept. Merging 3D projector, Kinect and Capture technology you can start to quickly and easily virtualise real world objects. As the blog states this could have many different applications. Taking online shopping to the next level is certainly one but I also see plenty of opportunities within the enterprise.

One use case springs to mind immediately. Manufacturers continue to divide the design and build process. Typically the design is taking place in the west and manufacture taking place in the east. I know from experience that this process is not smooth. The process has to be iterative but communication challenges and the long distance can often elongate the manufacture time to several months. Utilising UC technology with innovative products such as Mirageblocks will significantly reduce the time it takes from design to manufacture by reducing the amount of lag that it can take to move from the design to manufacture. Companies that embrace this way of working will certainly reduce product development time and reduce cost and as a result will gain competitive advantage.

Take a look at the Mirageblock blog here from the Microsoft Research team

Client Matter Tracking App for OCS and Lync 6

One potential issue preventing OCS and Lync adoption could be the relative lack of features that have been built into existing PBX systems over a number of years.  One such feature is the ability to immediately record a call to a client account.  This is a very common requirement in the Legal industry where Lawyers must be able to quickly and easily record their phone conservations with clients and bill for that time.

Microsoft are relying on the development community to fill the gaps of niche applications.  Enabling Tech Corp are one such company and they have developed a time tracking integration for OCS R2 and Lync.

Take a look at the video below, the demo of the application begins at the 3.00 minute mark.  I’d be interested to know how many organisations could exploit this app, I know several large Law firms are heavy users of OCS.

Cisco UC Partner Deliver Application for Healthcare

A couple of posts ago I mentioned that the FDA had approved the first medial use iPhone application, well it looks like the FDA will be having a busy time over the coming months reviewing more UC applications for the healthcare industry.  Extension Inc has recently submitted to the FDA for Class III Medical Device clearance an application called ‘HealthAlert for Nurses’ built on Extension’s middleware platform.  Their platform takes information from multiple systems and develops an interactive workflow.  In the case of HealthAlert for Nurses, nurses recieve alerts and information on their Cisco wireless handsets.

Extension Inc also has a number of iPhone applications which presents the information gathered by the middleware platform.

There is huge potential for these types of applications within the healthcare industry.  The twin forces of ever increasing costs and complex provision makes the healthcare industry an ideal industry for technology enabled reform.  UC implemented correctly within healthcare will saves billions of dollars, directly improve customer satisfaction and free up resources for investment in patient healthcare.  I do hope the FDA respond positively to the submission and on a wider front help establish a vibrant healthcare technology eco-system which embeds open unified communication standards within the industry.

For further information on the Extension application take a look at the video below

FDA Clear First iPad/iPhone App 1

It was is sure to be the first of many applications in the health market MIM Software has announced they are the first developer to receive FDA approval for their medial imagining tool for all iOS devices.  The application provides physicians the ability to receive medical scans on iPhone/iPad or iTouch devices from doctors or other health care providers.

Take a look at the MIM website here

MIT Send Holograms with Kinect

Here’s a video from the Object Based Media Group at MIT highlighting how standard consumer technology can be used to transmit Holographic images over the internet.  Although the images are limited we have certainly come a long way in a very short period of time.  The CNN Holograms from the 2008 Election coverage was reputed to have cost over $1million per location.  I would assume that for a fraction of that in the coming years organisartions and inviduals will be able to reproduce a similar capability.

Take a look at the wired article here

The red hologram is jerkier and has much lower resolution than the one in Star Wars that sparked the public fascination with 3-D holograms in the 1970s. In fact, it kind of looks like a red blob on a staticky TV. But it’s 30 times faster than a telepresence device created in 2010 by University of Arizona researchers (SN Online: 12/4/10).

“I think it’s an important milestone because they were able to get to 15 frames per second, which is almost real time,” says physicist Nasser Peyghambarian, who led the Arizona research. “The quality is not as high, but hopefully it will get better in the future.”